Review: The Wonga Coup by Adam Roberts
Title: The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs, and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa
Author: Roberts, Adam
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Publisher / Year: Public Affairs / 2007
Why I Read It: I’d not heard about this coup, but enjoy learning about the instability caused by oil.
Date Read: 16/04/12
History sometimes repeats itself in the most bizarre ways. In 1974 British novelist Frederick Forsyth wrote The Dogs of War, a best-selling novel about a coup in Western Africa. Although it was assumed to be fiction, documents prove that Forsyth may have been a major financier of an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea and the novel was based on that failed event. Thirty years later, another British backed group would try again. This book tells the story of Simon Mann and his attempt to pull off a coup in March, 2004 in Equatorial Guinea.
Through this book Roberts gives us a bit of background on Equatorial Guinea and the involvement of European and North American governments and international firms there. This provides the backdrop explaining how a ruthless dictator could have held on to power for so long, the bribes paid by the multi-national companies, and the attempts by locals to meddle. In addition, he talks about the history of mercenary armies on the African continent and the danger of having so many men with that background and little current job prospects. These mercenary soldiers are available for the largely European and British leaders to hire for hare-brained schemes such as the one described in this book.
It is hard to believe the audacity it would take to believe you could successfully overthrow a government, even if it is a dictatorship, and get away with it, especially in 2004. And then to openly interview with Roberts about the events and their plans is even more ridiculous. One of the more important parts of the book for me was the background of these men and what they thought they would get out of this event – largely money, much of it coming from oil. In so many cases in history oil has proven a curse that impedes development and encourages corruption. I always find it educational to read more about how this happens.
A well-researched book that covers an extraordinary event in history of which little is known. Roberts also includes a list of source documents and a bibliography for those interested in researching more on this event. If you enjoy reading about history, corruption, mercenaries, or coups, do give this book a try.